India’s IT Rules undermine user security, says WhatsApp CEO


India’s revised information technology guidelines which require a technology platform to trace the origin of flagged messages “End-to-end encryption undermines the security provided.
, WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart told technology publication The Verge on Monday
, He added that the decision could see more countries around the world.

“With the IT rules in India, the specific thing that those rules require is that you build some system [to comply] If someone comes up to us and says, “Hey, someone said the word ‘XYZ.’ Tell us who’s the first person to say the word ‘XYZ.'” It’s not private.

India, which notified the revised IT rules in February this year, has made it mandatory for messaging apps to comply with the controversial law from May 26.

“I think it’s a political question and a technical question. The way they wrote the rules and what they said is that they just want to apply it to the people of India. But I think it’s a broad political question,” Cathcart told The Verge. “Some countries want to put as much pressure on other countries as they do or put pressure on them.”

India’s new IT rules require significant social intermediaries, which have five million registered users, to be compliance, nodal and grievance officers with residents of the country. Messaging platforms like WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal need to trace the origin of the messages sent to their services.

On May 26, WhatsApp filed a lawsuit against the IT rules in the Delhi High Court, saying the traceability clause harms people’s right to privacy.

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A WhatsApp spokesperson said: “The need for messaging apps to trace chats is like asking us to keep a fingerprint of every message sent on WhatsApp, which would undermine the end-to-end encryption model and basically people’s right to privacy.”

“We have consistently engaged with civil society and experts around the world against the needs that violate the privacy of our users. Meanwhile, we will continue to contact the Government of India on practical measures aimed at keeping people safe, including responding to legitimate legal requests for information available to us.” .

The ET reported in September that the government has reiterated its position in favor of traceability and made it clear that social media platforms such as WhatsApp need to “rebuild their platforms” if law enforcement agencies need to help trace the origins of any law-making messages. Is. -And the point of order.

India has said that “traceability has nothing to do with breaking end-to-end encryption.” Despite the pushback from WhatsApp, it is extremely “very possible” to assume that there is a “complete need” for national security and law and order in the country.

Saving encryption

Experts say WhatsApp has serious and deep reservations about searchability under IT rules. The Facebook-owned company is pending a writ petition in the Delhi High Court, “which is limited to the challenge of the need to change the product of the platform, so that it is consistent, especially searchable,” according to Apar Gupta, executive director of the Internet Freedom Foundation, an advocacy group that works on confidentiality. , With other issues.

“It is important to note that no other platform, be it Indian or Silicon Valley-based Big Tech, has approached the courts directly to challenge the constitutionality of central government rules, regulations or legislation, especially in terms of content control. So there is a level of seriousness, ”he added.

Cathcart has reiterated that the Government of India’s mandate reduces the security provided by end-to-end encryption of messaging platforms.

“I think 10 years from now, our lives will be even more online. Our more sensitive data will be online. There will be more sophisticated hackers, spyware companies, hostile governments, criminals trying to gain access to it. And not having the best security means information is stolen. I think it has real consequences for a free society, “he said in an interview with The Verge.

Privacy concerns

“If journalists’ information is being stolen, which we see in some of the reporting around the NSO group, I think it reduces the free press. If those who want to organize can’t communicate privately, I think their capacity is reduced.

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